What is Dawn Phenomenon – Symptoms and Treatment

Diabetic patients experience several bodily changes owing to the disease. There are several aspects of the autoimmune disorder diabetes yet to be understood, including the origin of the disease. One such less understood diabetic phenomenon is the Dawn phenomenon.

It involves abnormal raise in the early hours fasting blood sugar levels. Diabetic people mostly have to deal with this phenomenon around the awkward times of 2 A.M.-8 A.M. in the morning.

Awareness about the signs and treatment of this less known aspect of diabetes can prove handy to the diabetic people and their loved ones in dealing with the condition. This article tries to gain further insight on the topic.

Dawn Phenomenon Symptoms: Though this phenomenon is different from the hyperglycemia condition, its signs mimic that of the latter one. A complete list of these signs to watch out for are:

  • Frequent hunger
  • Frequent thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Poor wound healing
  • Tingling in the feet and heels
  • Dry or itchy skin
  • Stupor
  • Coma
  • Impotence
  • External ear infection
  • Infection in the vagina
  • Abnormal electrical activity in the heart making it beat either too fast or too slow

The above mentioned signs become apparent in varying degrees in people. The rise of the blood sugar level in health dawn phenomenon is only around 30-50 mg/dL. Owing to this reason, the severity of these signs is not much in this condition.

The best way to diagnose the signs of this phenomenon is to check the fasting blood glucose level between 2 A.M.-3 A.M. in the morning. It is during this phase, that a person suffering from this condition experiences rise in the blood sugar levels in the body.

Dawn Phenomenon Treatment:

  • Elimination of evening snack
  • Intake of carbohydrate food at bedtime be avoided
  • Taking an intermediate dose of insulin at bedtime
  • A probable rise in the dosage of insulin to enhance the effectiveness
  • Not eating before bedtime and maintain a time gap between taking dinner and going to the bed
  • Taking insulin dosage exactly as prescribed
  • Random checking of fasting glucose levels between 3 A.M.-7 A.M. to monitor this phenomenon
  • Maintaining a balanced diet
  • Following a regular exercise regime
  • Reporting any abnormal raise in the blood glucose level immediately to the family physician

Researchers believe that release of growth signalling molecules or hormones like cortisol, glucagon and epinephrine overnight, cause release of glucose by liver and insulin resistance. Such developments lead to raise in the blood sugar levels in the body by the morning. This theory is yet to be proved.

4 responses to What is Dawn Phenomenon – Symptoms and Treatment

  1. Hello, thank you for this useful article, it’s really helped me to know more about diabetes

  2. You made me completely confused. I read other explanations about dawn phenomenon and they say the opposit in regard of bedtime snack. They encourage a non carbohidrate bedtime snack. Can you please provide me the explanation why your position is different from other doctors? What are the basis for your assertion. Do you have any support research or study to prove that a bedtime snack could cause the dawn phenomenon? According to other researchs I had i nthe internet it seems that the cause is due to extremely low glucose levels before bed, which causes the over production of other hormones, including cortisol that inhibits the production of insulin. I would appreciate if you e-mailed your answer. Thanks

  3. Hello to all,

    I am a 40 year old type 2 diabetic.

    I take 500mg of Metformin 2xs a day and keep my sugar between 120-130 thru out the day.

    However, at night after a light dinner around 9pm and a 45 minute dog walk at 4am (time for baby feeding) my sugars are around 140. After trying different med routines and other things I found 2 scoops of Protien powder mixed in a blender with a tall glass of water (milk taste better but 7 grams sugar) gives me a morning reading of 90-115.

    So, far it seems to work. Once in a while it’s high but so far so good.

  4. Hi, I have not been diagnosed with diabetes but wondered whether my night sweat attack around 3:30am was due to blood sugar issue. I tested before bed and after snack and it was 110. The I had a night sweat attack at 3:30am and got up to test again-it was 124. Are there other reasons than diabetes for this issue? Should I contact MD?

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